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Every officer speeds, says lawyer for CMPD officer charged in pedestrian death

Charlotte defense lawyer Michael Greene said his client, CMPD Officer Phillip Barker, should not have been arrested.
Charlotte defense lawyer Michael Greene said his client, CMPD Officer Phillip Barker, should not have been arrested.

The lawyer defending Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Officer Phillip Barker, who was charged Wednesday with misdemeanor death by vehicle after hitting a pedestrian in a fatal collision, says Barker didn’t commit a crime.

“The chief said in his own words that he was troubled, and this was an accident,” attorney Michael Greene said at a news conference Thursday.

Barker was part of a team of officers responding to a car crash early Saturday when he crossed a Morehead Street intersection at a green light and hit James Michael Short, 28. Short, a Central Piedmont Community College student, was declared dead at the scene.

CMPD Chief Kerr Putney said Wednesday that Barker was driving at about 100 mph in a 35 mph zone, and speed was a major factor in the decision to charge him.

Greene said factors besides speed, like that green light and Barker’s use of a siren, are important in determining whether an officer did something wrong.

“Any officer in the history of officers who’s ever put on their blue lights and sirens and gone to a scene, has exceeded the speed limit,” Greene said.

Greene also objected to the fact that Barker was arrested. He said he and Barker arrived at CMPD’s Law Enforcement Center to provide a statement and then Barker was unexpectedly arrested.

Greene said he’s had other clients charged with misdemeanor death by vehicle who were merely given citations, instead of being arrested. He said he asked for this treatment for Barker and was turned down.

Barker’s father is a retired CMPD sergeant and his mother works for the police department, Greene said. Barker was hired by CMPD in January 2016.

Jane Wester: 704-358-5128, @janewester

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